Website monitoring service Pingdom recently released some fascinating statistics on the Internet in 2011. By the end of last year, there were 555 million websites, 300 million of which were added in 2011. Of the 2,1 billion Internet users across the globe, 118,6 million are in Africa.
As a result, there’s an increasing focus on generating traffic in the online marketing world. The fight is on for clicks, and businesses are spending thousands of hours pushing their websites to the top of search pages.
But what makes a website great instead of just good? A great website is one that produces a sale, not necessarily directly on the site itself, but perhaps through the user contacting the owner of the website in order to do business. Even the smallest businesses should have a web presence, even if it’s just a few pages in the design, to create the perception of business stability and experience in the field and to portray a professional image to its potential customers.
“People are visually orientated,” says Leigh-Ann O’Hagan, owner of website design company LIT Creations. “They don’t like to read too much content. Rather, they prefer seeing visual content pertaining to the products and services being offered.
A good website will guide a user from the home page to the pertinent information in the easiest, most visually appealing way. Sites that provide too much information, or endless links to pages which only have one or two lines of text, confuse users and create irritation, resulting in a user leaving the site before any conversion to sales.”
What does a website cost?
Great websites do not have to cost a lot to create and maintain. The technology industry is continuously reducing its pricing to accommodate the growing user base.
“In the past, business owners had to secure the services of graphic designers and software developers to create a website if they didn’t have the design or html coding skills themselves,” says Carolyn Holgate, GM, MWEB Connect.
“Website template services make it quick and easy to set up and maintain a website, and add databases and e-commerce functionality. Template services also give you more features and flexibility than a blogging platform. A number of Internet service providers offer website template services free as part of their hosting offerings, so ask around.”
To avoid making expensive mistakes, spend time planning your website project, says Athena Turner, marketing and communications manager of web hosting company Hetzner. “The more complex the website, the more extensive the planning process needs to be,” she says. “Planning will ensure that most of the potential errors are discussed and avoided. Set realistic expectations of what the website is going to achieve for you. Clearly define its purpose from the outset.”
It’s important to be specific from the outset of the project when briefing your web designer. “Recognise the skill involved in developing a site. If it were as easy as formatting a word document you would have asked your marketing department to handle it.
“Designing a website is far more complex, so don’t expect sudden changes on your part to be received with enthusiasm from the web designer. Make your decisions in the planning process and then let your web designer get to work. Agree on clear progress milestones and keep accountability.”